Jacqui Bennett Writers Bureau





A short story for children


Pat Mitchell

Email: NickMet@compuserve.com

Sally Budge-up watched from under the cafe table as four pairs of feet strolled out into the sunshine. The door closed behind them. Sally Budge-up wasn’t pleased.

Two of those feet were attached to her best friend Tilly. Two of those feet should have stopped at the door, turned around and come right back to the table. Then Tilly should have peered under the table, rescued Sally from where she’d fallen, and given her a kiss on the nose.

But Tilly’s red trainers didn’t stop. They followed her dad’s flip-flops, her mum’s smart boots, and her brother Ozzie’s yellow wellingtons out into the sunshine.

Sally sulked. They’d forgotten her again. She lay on her front on the crumb-scattered carpet, and sulked.

Sally wasn’t a big bear, as teddy bears go. She was easy to overlook. But she knew she was a Very Important Bear to Tilly. She was the first bear Tilly had ever had, swinging from the hood of Tilly’s pram by a narrow red ribbon. Till Tilly had grown too big for her pram. And then, she was still Tilly’s Best Bear, because she was easy to tuck into a pocket, and very good company. How dare they leave her behind, all alone and covered in crumbs?

She lay under the cafe table and waited, with a not-pleased face on. She knew Tilly would be back soon, looking for her. She stared hard at the door, wishing it would open.

It did. Two pairs of big brown walking boots came in, and stopped right beside her. Sally shut her eyes tight and made herself really small as the huge boots arranged themselves under her table. Her stuffing was just right.... she didn’t want it rearranged.

What a lot of room they took up, those boots. And they were attached to long legs that kept stretching and bending. She was glad when they vanished... she was quite worn out from keeping out of their way.

“The next feet will definitely be Tilly’s,” she said to herself with complete confidence. They never forgot her for long. But the next feet were in a pair of big, black shoes. Soon, the shoes were slipped off, and she was in the company of some Very Smelly Socks. She decided not to breathe for a while.

After the socks came a whole family of feet, including four furry paws attached to a not-very-polite nose. Sally was sniffed, and slurped, and pushed about until she managed to squeeze herself behind a table leg. She was quite soggy by the time the family left, and not sorry to se them go.

As they left the cafe, a small pair of feet in gym shoes followed them to the door. There was a click. The door was locked. The cafe was closed.

And Tilly hadn’t come back.

Sally could hardly believe it. Tilly was always forgetting where she’d put her bear, but she’d never left her behind in a strange place before. Good job it was just the start of the holidays. Sally didn’t fancy a whole night under the table, but Tilly would be back first thing in the morning. She would definitely miss her bear at bedtime.


New sounds began to clatter down to Sally’s cave...rattling of cups and saucers being stacked on a tin tray, clatter of cutlery, swishing of tablecloths as they were whipped from the tables and shaken out.

All at once, the noises were right over Sally’s head. Light streamed under the table as the cloth was whipped away. Sally Budge-up blinked. A pair of small white pumps, topped by blue jeans, was walking away from her table.

There was a click, then a new sound, a loud, droning, sucking sound that Sally recognised. The white pumps were coming towards her, but this time they were behind a huge and grinning vacuum cleaner.

Sally cringed. The monster was coming nearer, gobbling up all in its path...cake crumbs danced in the air before disappearing down the open jaws; bits of cotton clung to the carpet for dear life, but to no avail. A hairgrip vanished forever, rattling a useless protest.

Sally wished she could climb a chair leg to safety. All that lay between her and the munching monster were a foot of carpet, some shreds of coconut, and a shiny penny. Sally screwed her eyes up and waited, waited for the moment when she would disappear forever into the hungry hoover.

She said goodbye to the sunshine and the day; goodbye to Tilly who hadn’t come back; goodbye to Ozzie, who hadn’t noticed the Absence of Bear and raised the alarm.

Sally Budge-up screwed up her eyes as tight as she could, and waited.

There was a sudden loud crack, then a rattle, then a grinding wheeze.

One white gym-shoe stepped on a button on the vacuum cleaner, and there was quiet again.

Sally peeped with one eye.

A small, freckly face surrounded by curly brown hair came down to look inside the monstrous beast. The penny was removed, battered and dirty, and the face was vanishing again.

Sally Budge-up made herself as big and yellow was she could. “See me,” she thought. “Look, here I am, down here. Please don’t go away.”

And it worked. A soft hand that smelled of lemons and icing sugar reached in and lifted Sally from her dungeon.

“Look Mum, someone’s old ted got left behind,” the girl said, shaking Sally free of crumbs.

“I expect they’ll be back tomorrow,” came the reply. “ Bit of a scruffy-looking individual.” They both laughed.

Sally Budge-up was outraged. Old ted? Scruffy-looking Individual? Just let them say that to her face. They’d be sorry.

The girl set Sally down on a table top, and Sally watched her as she tidied the cafe. Older than Tilly. Tilly was eight, but this girl must be quite old. Ten, or even eleven. She had smiley eyes and lots of hair. Sally tried hard not to like her...she was still feeling insulted.

The girl went round the cafe very efficiently, clearing and wiping tables, putting away salt and pepper pots. When she had finished, she picked up Sally again and smiled at her. “She’s a nice little bear, Mum. It’s a shame. Some little kid will be missing her,” she said, and she looked into Sally’s eyes. “Wonder who you belong to, little ‘un?”

Sally stopped trying not to like her. This girl was obviously a Very Nice Person Indeed.

“Pop her up here on the counter, Lucy,” her mother said. “ If they’re staying locally, they might call again. Put the little bear where it will be spotted.”

Lucy put Sally on the counter, propped against the side of the till. And there she stayed.


She stayed there all night. And the next day. And the day after that. She watched the people come and go, but none of them was Tilly. And she didn’t see Lucy again till a whole week had gone by, and it was Saturday again.

“How could they have forgotten me, right at the start of the holidays,” Sally thought sadly. “Think of what I’m missing. Picnics by the lake. Campfires. Walking on Hadrian’s Wall.”

She was not a happy bear. Every time the till was opened, a bell rang very loudly, right next to her ear. It made her eyes wobble like mad. And every time the till was closed, the whole counter clattered and shook. And so did Sally.


At the end of the day, after she had tidied the cafe, Lucy took Sally from her noisy perch.

“No-one’s been for the little bear, Mum. What should we do with her?” she asked, smoothing Sally’s left ear, which had curled up from the noise of the till.

“Give it another week, I think. Then if she’s not claimed you can keep her if you like. Or give her to the Jumble.”

Sally Budge-up gasped with dismay. She’d never seen a Jumble, and hardly dared imagine what one was like. It sounded like some huge and hungry animal.

Yes, that was it. A mountainous beast it would be, with little squinty eyes, a snuffly flat nose, and rows of great big grinding teeth.

An animal that had a liking for Teddy Bears’ Picnics of the Worst Kind. Sally Budge-Up shuddered.

“Keep me, Lucy,” she thought, as loudly as she could. “ I wouldn’t eat much, honestly. And I’d keep my toy box tidy. I’d even tell you my best jokes.”

Lucy gave her a kiss on the nose.

“Give it another week then,” she said, popping Sally back on the counter. She winced as her fur met the cold metal of the cash-till.

“Dinnnngggggg.” Lucy’s mother rang open the drawer, and Sally’s eyes wobbled like mad.

“Ah well,” she said to herself, as she and the counter clattered and shook. “I’d rather sit up here and be deafened a bit, than sent to the jaws of the Jumble.”


That night, in the dark cafe, as she drifted off to sleep, Sally thought about Tilly. Where was she now? What had she been doing all week, Without Sally? Had she been pony-trekking? She’d promised to take Sally along in her top pocket, with her head sticking out.

Why hadn’t she come back to find her? Didn’t she realise that Sally faced a terrible end if she didn’t come soon?

She dreamt that night of a fearsome Jumble, short-legged and fat but very fast, who chased her through the deserted town till she could almost feel its hot breath on the backs of her ears. Then, at the last possible moment, Tilly appeared, mounted on a chestnut pony, and chased the brute away.


The next week went by very quickly. Sally saw many families come and go, but not her own family. Not Tilly and Ozzie and Mum and Dad. At last it was Saturday again.

When Lucy came into the shop, Sally sat up straight, opened her eyes very wide, and thought tidy thoughts. She didn’t want to look like a Scruffy Individual, but like the kind of fine bear a girl would want to keep.

“It’s today that Tilly goes home. She’s not coming back for me. It’s Lucy or the Jumble, so I’d better be my Very Best Self.”

Lucy collected the letters from the doormat, put them on the counter next to Sally, and began to set the tables. Her mother was busy in the kitchen. Sally could hear her singing, and smell the beautiful morning smells of baking cakes.

She waited. She wished that Lucy would stop setting tables and attend to the main business of the day, which was Telling Sally Budge-up Her Fate.

Would she keep Sally? Would she put her in the toybox with the other bears? With the knitted badger with the eye-patch? With the pink chicken and the lop-eared dog?

Or would it be... The Jumble?

She tried to attract Lucy’s attention by staring at her very hard, but Lucy was busy and didn’t notice.

Sally gave up. She looked around the room, silently saying goodbye to the neat cafe tables, the potted geraniums, the pictures of stags and leaping salmon on the walls.

Then she noticed the pile of letters on the counter beside her.

“That’s funny,” thought Sally, staring at the pale orange envelope at the top of the pile. “Tilly uses envelopes just like that one. With two ducks in the corner. Just like those two ducks there.”

She felt a flicker of hope.

Lucy’s mum came in and rang open the till. Sally’s eyes wobbled like mad. Her ears jangled as Lucy’s mum dropped in a handful of coins.

While Sally was still shaking and wobbling, Lucy’s mum began to sort through the mail. First she opened the one in a brown envelope and said “Good Grief.”

Then she opened a very fat letter in a white envelope. She sat down at a table to read it. She laughed a lot, and read bits out to Lucy. It took ages. Sally was getting impatient.

At last, Lucy’s mum picked up the pale orange envelope with two ducks in the corner. Sally Budge-up held her breath.

“Look at this, Lucy,” she smiled. “ It’s addressed to: The Little Cafe With Geranium Tubs, Near The Roman Fort, Lanercost. I’m amazed it found us. Who can it be from?” She opened the envelope carefully and read the note.

“Well well,” she said. “It’s from a little girl called Tilly. Lives right down on the South Coast. Came in a fortnight ago at the start of her holiday and had a nice dinner, she says. Especially the gooseberry tart. Then she went up to the Roman Fort, fell off Hadrian’s Wall and broke her arm. Had to go home the next day, in plaster. Wants to know if we’ve found her bear.”


That afternoon, Lucy said goodbye to Sally. She packed her carefully in a box lined with yellow tissue paper. Sally wasn’t keen, but she went quietly.

She didn’t much enjoy the journey by train; too much time spent upside-down. After a long time and a few hard landings, everything was still and quiet. Sally dozed.

Suddenly, she was woken as the box was snatched up. She heard the sound of wrappings being torn away. Light filled the box, and happiness filled a very little bear.

Tilly looked down at her, beaming.

“It’s Sally Budgeup. Look, Ozzie, Sally’s back.”

Tilly lifted Sally out with her good hand. The other one was still in plaster. She gave Sally an enormous hug, and kissed her on the nose.

Sally forgave her everything. She forgave her for dropping her under the café table. She forgave her for Not Noticing. She forgave her for being so careless as to fall off Hadrian’s Wall.

“Hadrian really should put a No Climbing notice on his wall,” Sally Budgeup said to herself. “But oh, it’s good to be back. Tilly is so much better than the jaws of the Jumble.”

 ©2000 Pat Mitchell

Pat would love to hear what you think of her story - email her now

Back to Competition page